An F-16V jet fighter taxis on the runway for an emergency takeoff as part of a Taiwanese military exercise in Chiayi, Taiwan in January, as China ramped up overflights of PLA fighter jets over the self-governing island in 2022.
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – China’s defense minister accused the US of “slandering” Beijing and said Washington is trying to “hijack” countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Wei Fenghe said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that the burden of improving troubled US-China relations rests with Washington.
“We call on the US side to stop slandering and containing China. Stop meddling in China’s internal affairs. Bilateral relations cannot improve if the US side cannot,” he told delegates at the Dialogue, Asia’s top defense conference.
“However, if you want a confrontation, we will fight to the end. The two militaries should make positive efforts for a positive relationship,” Wei added.
Wei said US President Joe Biden’s new Indo-Pacific strategy is leading to “conflicts and confrontations”.
The US announced its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in May as part of its strategy for the region. The IPEF includes 13 countries and excludes China.
“For us, the strategy is an attempt to build an exclusive small group in the name of a free and open Indo-Pacific to hijack countries in our region and target a specific country,” Wei said on the final day of the three-day conference. Daily dialogue in Singapore.
“It’s a strategy of creating conflict and confrontation to contain and encircle others,” he said. “China strives for peace and stability and is not an aggressor in the Indo-Pacific,” he said, calling on the US to “strengthen solidarity and resist confrontation and division.”
During the summit, which featured addresses by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, China has denied reports of Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
Senior and retired Chinese military officials have held special media briefings to counter the speeches by Kishida and Austin.
In his speech on Saturday, Austin described the Indo-Pacific as a “priority area of operations” that lies at “the heart of American grand strategy.” He called the Indo-Pacific strategy released in February central to the Biden administration’s forthcoming National Security Strategy and to his own department’s National Defense Strategy.
Austin slammed Beijing’s increasingly “forced and aggressive” approach to its claims in the Indo-Pacific — where China is locked in territorial disputes with several neighbors including Japan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.
On Sunday, Wei also issued a terse warning on Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province that should be forcibly reunited with the mainland as a last resort. China will fight any attempts by Taiwan to declare independence to the “last man,” he said.
“We will fight at all costs and we will fight to the end. This is the only choice for China,” he said. “Those who seek Taiwan independence to divide China will definitely not end well.”
“It’s China’s Taiwan, a province of China. We will realize the reunification of Taiwan,” Wei said.
His speech came a day after US Secretary of Defense Austin accused China of “provocative, destabilizing” military activities near the island.
The US is obligated to provide the self-governing island with the arms and services to defend itself under its Taiwan Relations Act.
Austin had claimed that it was China that upped the ante.
“We see a growing compulsion from Beijing. We have seen a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan. And that includes [People’s Liberation Army] Planes that have flown near Taiwan in record numbers in recent months — almost every day,” he said.
China’s Wei also called for talks between NATO and Russia to end the war in Ukraine. He said China has no pact with Russia.
“It’s a partnership, not an alliance. Relations with Russia will continue to grow. We have not given Russia any military or material support for its war in Ukraine,” Wei said.